strtoupper('“T')here Were So Many People That They Could Not All Be Governed by One Teacher”

Social: The reason for the institution of "church" is that there are too many people to "be governed by one teacher, neither could they all hear the word of God in one assembly." One of the pressures that Alma's "church" responds to is the increase in population size. What is less clear from a modern perspective is how radical this change was. To understand what is happening here, which is nothing less than a religious revolution, we need to understand what Alma's "churches" were and how they contrasted to what was in place before Alma arrives on the scene.

We really have little to go on to define Alma's "churches." The one thing we should not do is base our understanding of Alma's "churches" on our own conceptions of "church." While this is the term used to translate what is going on, it may or may not accurately describe Alma's organization.

What do we know about Alma's "church" from the text alone?

How does this contrast with the pre-Alma situation?

What then was Alma's "church" not that we might presume that it was? At least in its inception, it was not a separate religious system among other religious systems.

While Alma's reforms ultimately led to the possibility of seeing "church" as synonymous with "sect," in this earliest setting it is much better seen as closer to the original Greek ekklesia or gathering. Alma's "church" was a congregation physically separated from other similar congregations. The pragmatics of this ability to segregate into smaller groups would be the better mode of indoctrination of the congregation.

When the Zarahemla population had grown too large for indoctrination en masse, the division into smaller congregations would allow for more effective teaching, and therefore perhaps better understanding, and (one would hope) better daily integration of the correct principles.

Brant Gardner -

Brant Gardner

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon

References